Love him or loath him, the influence Conor McGregor has had on the Irish MMA scene is irrefutable. Most young fighters will admit that McGregor’s success and notoriety has been a source of motivation in their own careers. Conor had a direct impact on one such fighter, Dylan Logan, and arguably compelled him to eventually make a career out of MMA.
Dylan spent his childhood and teenage years training first in karate and then in kickboxing. Amassing titles and belts in both sports. During his final years in school, looking for a new challenge, he took up Jiu Jitsu. Although he excelled in this new discipline, his mind was firmly focused on MMA. However, not all of his coaches were convinced that he was ready.
As Dylan was preparing to sit his Leaving Cert. Conor McGregor came to his gym to give a seminar. Conor was fighting for Cage Warriors at this time, and although he would have been well known on the local scene, he was yet to become a household name. At the end of the seminar Dylan approached Conor to ask him for his advice. He asked him what he needed to do to get into MMA.
Conor’s advice for the 18-year-old left little room for interpretation.
“I said I am serious about it, I really want to do this MMA. What do I need to do? He Said, ‘If you want to take it serious, you need to jack in everything and you need to come to SBG and train full time.’”
These words of advice were not wasted on Dylan. He finished out his exams, spent the summer painting to get some money together, and armed with 6 months fees he enrolled in SBG. Dylan approached this as if he were heading off to college. He committed himself to spending 4 years going after his goal.
During those first six months, Dylan was training twice a day in SBG. He would attend the morning session, and then wait outside the gym for it to reopen in the evening. John Kavanagh noticed the dedication Dylan was demonstrating.
“He (John Kavanagh) notices everything and he said to me ‘the only thing I want you to do for me is keep training they way you have been training, and just compete. Don’t worry about fees.’ That was a huge weight off my shoulders.”
From there Dylan went from strength to strength. Earning his blue belt in Jiu Jitsu and starting to compete in amateur MMA fights.
“John just wanted to see me train consistently before he put me in anywhere.”
At this time SBG had a pro team. It was by invitation only. After about a year in SBG, Dylan was invited to come and watch the pro team sparring and training. He remembers sitting there one day and saying to John,
“When can I do this? I want to go, and he was like ‘now, let’s go, put the gloves on!’…My first spar was with James Gallagher…Me and James grew up on the same amateur circuit…And now on this show that I’m fighting on in February with Bellator, James is the main event.”
Dylan’s early career may seem to have been charmed, but not everything has gone according to plan. After a very successful time in the amateur ranks, winning fights and titles all around him, Dylan had a rude awakening when he went pro.
“Looking back on it, I probably could have done with extending my amateur career and getting a bit more experience. But at the time, all my finishes were coming in 30, 40 seconds…It was definitely confidence, but there was a touch of cocky there too. I nearly felt like I was too good.”
This may be a case of youth being wasted on the young. Full of the energy and exuberance that you might expect from a teenager, Dylan was gung-ho to get his professional career underway. He lost his first two professional fights. The Bear of Bellator is remarkably philosophical about this.
“I went from being the top dog at amateur, to now if you lose your next fight, you’re finished…I had a blazing amateur career, I was hinted as the next hot prospect. I won submission of the year Ireland and UK, top amateur fighter…The worse thing I did was, I bought into the hype.”
After this humbling experience, Dylan has gone back to leaving his ego at the door. Doing the hard work and letting that do the talking for him. He puts in two sessions a day. The first in SBG in Bluebell and the evening session in SBG Naas. It is worth noting that Dylan doesn’t drive and must rely on public transport. Another indication of just how committed he is to do what needs to be done.
Dylan told me the story of how he got to be signed for Bellator. After his last fight, he needed to make some money, so he took a part time job, painting with his dad. He was standing on a ladder, painting a ceiling when he got a message from John. The message hinted at the prospect of a contract, but Dylan was reluctant to get his hopes up.
“I had finished work, and I was on the Luas on the way into the gym…I checked my emails, it was just BOOM, Bellator contract, exclusive 4 fight deal. When I saw that, honestly, I just burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it.”
Both of Dylan professional wins have come by submission. As he is a natural striker, I was curious how this came about.
“My specialty would be stand up…Fairly early on, I realised that the worst position for me as a striker is on my back… So, I had to get really good off my back. Off your back you have triangles and arm bars and I just got really good at those… I am turning a negative into a positive.”
The phrase “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn,” is often bandied around. Having chatted to Dylan it became clear to me that he really embodies it. After each set back he has encountered, he has adapted and changed to avoid making the same mistake again.
Dylan’s second professional fight was for BAMMA and it ended in defeat. Much more seriously than that, the young fighter ended up in hospital. This was less to do with the fight itself and more to do with a bad weight cut.
“The fight started, I hit the guy a right hook, wobbled him and I went to go at him and my body shut down…It turned out that from me dehydrating myself so much the night before, I had actually shrunk the brain a little bit.”
As part of his current camp, Dylan is working with world renowned nutritionist George Lockhart. Proving the young fighter has learned from this mistake.
There has been further evidence of the Irishman’s willingness to adapt and overcome following his most recent fight. Dylan believes that this fight was his best performance, but it ultimately ended in defeat. Suffering the effects of fatigue in the third round, Dylan was unable to see out the fight effectively. Since then, he has been working with local strength and conditioning coach Ross Lynch. Focusing on building his engine and increasing his endurance.
“I had never done strength and conditioning. I always believed that skills pay bills. Then next of all you’re going into the third round and you’re wrecked. Then you realise that unless you’re fit, you have no skills…I have been working with Ross now for about a year, and the difference in my game…I feel a lot more compact. I feel like everything is knitting together perfectly.”
I have done some training with Ross myself and I would attest to him being one of the best in the industry. I was delighted to have the opportunity to get to chat to Ross and get his thoughts on Dylan and his career prospects.
According to Ross, “Dylan has the heart of a lion.” Most of Ross’s clients, myself included, come to him to get fit and healthy. Dylan is already in great shape, so Ross’s role is much more around mindset. He needs to push him past the point where the fighter wants to throw in the towel. Often only beginning the real training when Dylan is already under fatigue. This helps the athlete to understand that he can keep going far longer than he thought possible. Ultimately paying dividends when a fight goes the distance.
Having spoke to both Dylan and Ross, it is clear that their relationship is a close one. Ross trains Dylan twice a week, and he also trains with him a couple of times a week. Mutual suffering no doubt strengthening their bond.
Dylan would appear to be incredibly dialled in. As this goes to print, we are still 7 weeks out from Bellator 217 and the Irish man looks shredded. I asked Ross if he had an idea where this focus and determination stems from. His answer was twofold.
In the first instance, he says Dylan gets his work ethic from his dad. His father is a painter and has always worked extremely hard. Something which has evidently rubbed off on his son.
The second factor Ross mentioned is that Dylan trains with other extremely talented fighters. Kiefer Crosbie and James Gallagher were just two of a handful of names mentioned. The men and women Dylan surrounds himself with are destined for greatness, and this is a huge source of inspiration for the 23 year old. Ross said that this is something he tries to impress upon all his clients. If you want to be the best, you need to be around people with similar goals.
I asked Ross if he had any advice for people who are just starting out in MMA. His answer was simple. “Get a coach.” He urged people not to be tempted to look online, see what other people are doing and try to replicate it. Only proper coaching will be able to correct any issues with movement patterns you might have. Training incorrectly can often be more detrimental than not training at all.
At 23 he has learned lessons which might normally take a lifetime. He has a solid team around him and is giving himself every opportunity to succeed.
Having listened to his story, Dylan is an example that if you work hard, and are consistent, if you make it your business to spend as much time as possible in the right place, eventually it will be the right time.
Written By: Arwen Sheridan